Throwback Thursday: My Brief & Injury-Filled Experiment with Minimalist Shoes

I don’t actually know if minimalist shoes are still all the rage but, back when I lived in Banff and read Runner’s World magazine on the reg, they were all anyone was talking about. Supposedly, these magical, cushion-less shoes would transform me into a runner of yore (i.e. pre-shoes). Finally I would end my heel-striking ways and teach my feet to hit the ground the way nature intended.  My running form and efficiency would exceed my wildest expectations.  I would develop proper foot strength. Lazy feet be gone! Doesn’t that just sound like a dream?

I got in on the craze with these snazzy numbers:

the devil

Sure they look flash but they are really the devil incarnate.

Oh sure, I read all that mumbo jumbo about slow transitions into minimalist shoes.  I get that I was supposed to start by running a km in them and then gradually increase distance. I knew I could try running on grass or dirt first to ease the initial impact.  But I was young and impatient and cocky, and so my reaction to all of this was twofold:

  1. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
  2. Those rules apply to the old. I am young and strong and my body defies your rules of slow transitions.

And so, I did what any headstrong and foolish runner would do and went for a 10k run right out of the gates (or shoebox, so to speak). Well, my ankles were pretty sore after that and I noticed that many of my leg muscles felt more tired than usual. Although I could have seen these as early warning signs of too deep and fast a plunge into the world of minimalist running, instead I opted to completely ignore them.

I went out for another run, probably in the area of 14 or 15 km.  That is when my SI decided to say enough is enough.  It hadn’t bothered me in a while, but there it was sending sharp pains across my tailbone and lower back and clearly making my choice for me. I had to stop.

You would think this would be enough for me to heed the warnings about slow transitions and yet you would be wrong.  Instead, I kept on launching into long runs like it was nothing. I went through two more rounds of this cycle–long run, SI or ankle injury, physio, healing, run again–before finally throwing in the towel and accepting that, with my host of conditions, maybe good old-fashioned cushioned running shoes weren’t so bad after all. I have never been one of the trendy kids so it should have come as no surprise that this trend wasn’t a fit for me either.

I still have those Saucony’s tucked in my desk drawer at work, partly as a reminder of my youthful folly but also because, having worn them only a handful of times, they still work in a pinch as a damn fine spinning shoe.

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